Big Changes For Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship Fund

April 3, 2010

Major changes to a popular scholarship program that pays for the majority of Florida’s students to attend college easily won approval in the Florida Senate this week.

The Senate, by a 34-4 vote, approved changes that include upping the qualifying standards for the scholarship and permanently taking it away from students who can’t keep up their grades.

The reason for tweaking the program, which previously funded 75 percent to 100 percent of tuition for Florida students, is to keep the scholarship afloat. Since its 1997 inception, the scholarship has ballooned in popularity costing $75 million for the first year and $435 million in 2008-2009. To sustain it would cost about $480 million.

Instead, the Senate went with a $376.37 million for 2010-2011.

“We have been struggling every year to keep Bright Futures funded,” said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, the chair of the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Committee.

Under the Senate proposal, students in a first tier of awards would receive $126 per credit hour, while students in the second tier would receive $95 per credit hour. That’s the same amount students received this year because last year, lawmakers realized they could not fund tuition at 100 percent or 75 percent for every qualifying student and set a flat rate for the awards.

But the program needs to have even narrower parameters to survive, Lynn said. The Bright Futures budget is currently being funded by federal stimulus money and will be next year as well, but if the program expands and there is no more stimulus money, Lynn said she doesn’t know where to get the money.

The Senate bill includes raising the SAT requirements from 1270 to 1290 for the top award and 970 to 1050 for the secondary award. It also changes the stakes for students who don’t keep up their grades.Currently, students in the first tier must maintain a 3.0 grade point average, while the second tier students must maintain a 2.75 GPA. If they fail to do that and lose the scholarship, they can eventually apply for reinstatement. However, if SB 1344 is approved, students would not be able to apply for reinstatement.

A change was added to the bill though to allow exceptions such as illness, an emergency or military service to qualify students for scholarship reinstatement.

Lawmakers generally favored the change out of economic necessity, but some also noted that there was a need to make the scholarship need-based rather than merit-based because the highest achieving students would likely qualify for other scholarships. Poor students would have more need for the money, some argued.

Throughout the state university system, about half of the students are on the scholarship. At the University of Florida, about 93 percent of freshmen have a Bright Futures Scholarship while about 76 percent of the overall undergraduate population has one. The legislation does not affect students who are currently on the scholarship.

“It is too easy to get Bright Futures,” said Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate. “It is not a merit based scholarship, it is a scholarship for everybody at this point.”

Part of the bill does require all Bright Futures recipients to fill out the federal student financial aid form (FAFSA) so that the Legislature can start examining the financial means of students who receive the state-funded scholarships.

The bill was opposed by four Democrats, Sens. Dan Gelber, Charlie Justice, Al Lawson and Chris Smith.

Gelber, D-Miami Beach, said he understood the intentions of the legislation but that he could not support some of the provisions such as permanently taking away a scholarship.

“Now is not the time to close the doors of our higher education institutions to anybody,” he said.

The House has not included a similar provision in its budget, but has cut the flat rate for students receiving the awards to $110 per credit hour for the first tier and $83 per credit hour for the second tier. The differences will likely be resolved in conference committees over the next few weeks.

By Kathleen Haughney, News Service Florida, for NorthEscambia.com

Comments

21 Responses to “Big Changes For Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship Fund”

  1. Waterlady501 on April 6th, 2010 8:53 am

    “Extra” can certainly be used as a relative term, but in this case, it’s not. Each honors level course awards the student a set amount of honors points for successful completion. If I remember correctly, it was 0.025 per course, but I could be mistaken. All one needs to do is compare the course requirements for English I with the requirements for English I Honors to see the honors level class requires a much larger volume of work at a higher level of difficulty. That is just one example and that’s not my opinion, that information is verifiable as fact. Honors courses are not for every student and many “average” high school students go on to be a great success in their chosen career, whatever that may be. On the other hand, please don’t try to belittle the hard work and accomplishments of those students who choose to take the challenge of tougher academic standards and by doing so earn a few extra points toward qualifying for a much-deserved scholarship.

  2. motherofone on April 5th, 2010 8:28 pm

    …..They are not “given” anything extra–they earn extra points for extra work…….

    “extra” is a relative term … in my opinion

  3. twizzbeatz on April 5th, 2010 12:23 pm

    Acquiring a Bright Futures Scholarship isn’t as easy as it is made out to be. In order to receive an Academic Scholars award (what used to be a “full” or 100% Scholarship) a student must score in the 87th percentile on the ACT or SAT test. The student must also complete 75 hours of community service, so it’s not like the state is throwing a scholarship to every student who wants one. Effort actually has to be put forth in order to meet the requirements. This award doesn’t even cover the full price of tuition anymore with the flat rate of $126 per credit hour that is now in place. Sure, some students enroll in easy classes in high school and may have a decent GPA because of this, but unless they buckle down in college, they will end up losing the scholarship anyway because a 3.0 GPA is required and is not always easy to achieve when taking college level courses. The more students who are in college creates more potential of an intelligent workforce in the future and also keeps more professors and other staff at universities employed, which is also beneficial to the state’s economy.

  4. Waterlady501 on April 5th, 2010 9:42 am

    Speaking as a parent of 3 students who all qualified for and benefited from Bright Futures and 1 who was in the gifted program, I’d like to clear up a few misconceptions. 1) Students who are in the gifted program in Escambia County, FL, do not get extra points. They attend enrichment programs where they are challenged in ways they can’t be challenged in a mainstream classroom. 2) Students who enroll in Honors classes at the high school level are awarded extra points for taking a higher level course with more difficult requirements than the average class for that subject. They are not “given” anything extra–they earn extra points for extra work. A student does not have to be in the gifted program to enroll in Honors courses. 3) At the time my students qualified, Bright Futures required a score of 26 on the ACT to earn a 100% scholarship. That score is by no means easy to achieve. 4) This scholarship is not available to everyone, only the students who work hard enough to earn it, regardless of their economic background. Whether or not a student’s parents can afford to fund his college education is beside the point when a scholarship is MERIT based–that’s what makes it a merit scholarship–the student EARNED it.

  5. ES on April 5th, 2010 7:59 am

    Everyone seems to be forgetting one of the main reasons this program was implemented. Many of the high-achieving students who had the financial means to do so were leaving the state of Florida to get their college educations in other states. This was dubbed the “brain drain” because, upon graduation, these students would choose to remain to live and work in the states where they attended college. Florida’s colleges were not considered competitive or challenging enough so many of our brightest students left the state. This program has reinvigorated the state’s college system. It is most definitely challenging to be awarded the Bright Futures Scholarship and competition for admission at some schools such as Univ. of Florida is getting fierce. This program is 1) making our schools competitive and 2) allowing industries who need highly educated employees to view Florida as a viable location since our schools are producing well-qualified, high achievers who wish to live and work here.

  6. bill, big b little ill on April 4th, 2010 11:38 pm

    It’s amazing how many of those high IQ people have to call or hire someone to do work for them. Or just don’t have common sense, I think your placing way to much on IQ. not the person.

  7. rollingwiththetide on April 4th, 2010 9:04 pm

    I’m certainly glad you cleared that up!

  8. motherofone on April 4th, 2010 6:22 pm

    p.s. in case you are wondering, my son’s IQ qualifiied him for the “gifted” program as well .. it is correct, having a high IQ did set him apart and made him more difficult to raise but I never approved of telling these kids, including mine, they are “gifted”

  9. motherofone on April 4th, 2010 6:18 pm

    geez ..lol .. ok .. of course there are a few “gifted” children whose IQ’s are high like your 166 example … and of course all children are “gifts” … I am referring to the masses of children who are segregated into “gifted” programs who are not gifted at all. They may be bright, motivated ( either “self” or parent motivated) but they are told they are gifted, get extra points so they graduate with over 4.0 GPA – how do you make better than a 4.0? Ridiculous

  10. rollingwiththetide on April 4th, 2010 5:19 pm

    bill, big b little ill

    Thanks! I AGREE!

  11. anydaynow on April 4th, 2010 2:38 pm

    meforone-money is being wasted paying for the education of kids whose parents are perfectly capable of paying for that education themselves. For the most part, this program gilds the path of students who already have economic and education advantages.

  12. bill, big b little ill on April 4th, 2010 8:12 am

    Sorry folks, but every child is gifted, you may think that he or she has no gift at all but you are wrong, wrong, wrong. You just can’t see past your exectations of the child. Just because they all are not rocket scientist, so what.

  13. rollingwiththetide on April 4th, 2010 7:55 am

    montherofone

    Could you explain to me how a gifted student is determined not to be gifted? Your reply has bother me ever since I read it. We have a grandson that is gifted and we knew it before his first birthday. He was tested before entering into the 3rd grade. The results of his IQ test was 166 which is Exceptionally Gifted. We reconize he will be challenged and most of the time he challenges us. By the way, his sister is not gifted and we reconize it.

  14. bill, big b little ill on April 3rd, 2010 8:54 pm

    A new analysis of “Obamacare,” as President Obama’s plan effectively nationalizing health care has been dubbed, concludes the law will hit American households for more than $17 billion a year with just one of its “disasters,” and the real overall cost likely will be $2.5 trillion, nearly triple the $940 billion estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

    Bright Futures NOT LOOKING SO BRIGHT.

  15. escambiamom on April 3rd, 2010 4:46 pm

    I am wondering what the qualifying ACT scores will change to?

  16. l on April 3rd, 2010 2:50 pm

    From a Florida college student, kudos to the legislature. The requirements when I entered college, 2006, were often scoffed at for being too easy. I know only a few people who had to take the SAT an extra time or two to get the scholarship and that is the way it should be for nearly everyone.

    Bright Futures as it is now makes college a right not something that requires hard work and effort, as I believe it should. Increase the merit requirements but keep this a merit scholarship. There are plenty of financial aid scholarships but merit scholarships, especially at public universities, are few and far between.

  17. motherofone on April 3rd, 2010 2:32 pm

    1) grades are also given away – “gifted” students get extra points .. most are not gifted at all.

    2) the lottery money could have easily paid for whatever merit based program we had IF the govt would have continued to fund education at the same level without regard for the lottery money – just another bait and switch lie

    take away video games and require students to read … students should learn to do math and read then they can learn anything the need to about, on, around computers

    just sayin …

  18. Betty Killam on April 3rd, 2010 1:56 pm

    This program is absolutely not available to anyone who applies. Only students who make excellent and good grades are eligible. This is as it should be. It is time that those who get freebies be held to a higher standard. If the present trend continues and all is given to the “poor” and “needy” without any effort on their part, there will be no one left to pay the taxes to continue the hand-outs. All is not well in America folks–wake up and do something for the middle class who is holding it all together. Bright Futures is as it should be!

  19. meforone on April 3rd, 2010 9:19 am

    I have three in college . One finishing a Masters in Nursing in May . One well on the way in Medicine . And just finishing general studies . And it was done and is
    being done with hard work . Something the world has turned it’s back on ,give it a try it still works .
    Merit yes, what has happened is money is being wasted on children that are not college ready .

  20. SW on April 3rd, 2010 8:01 am

    This program should be merit based. There are other income based programs.

    What good would it do to give an income based scholarship to someone who didn’t have the mental capacity for college? Everyone is not cut out for college. Some are better at vocational schools. Others are just better at going to work. Facts of life.

    If a student exhibits the ability to maintain a 2.75 or better average, give them the scholarship if they want to go to college. I seriously doubt that a student who can’t keep a C in high school is going to go very far in college; there are exceptions, of course.

    What, is this going to be another form of income redistribution? I thought the lottery was going to boost the education budget…oh, that’s right, legislators substituted the lottery for the education fund.

    Thanks legislators.

  21. B on April 3rd, 2010 7:20 am

    The biggest problem with Bright Futures is it’s easy accessiblilty for anyone who applies. Other scholarship programs are need and merit based. Why should this be any different? I am aware of many students who receive this scholarship that have other financial means to fund their education. This should have requirements based on merit and need. This should not be another entitlement program for anyone. I understand that many students would not have the opportunity to attend college it they didn’t have this. It it continues in this direction, it will go completely away and the situation will be even worse for these students.





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